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Web letter by Marie Siroky: HJR-6 passage would stunt one of state’s growth industries

Last month BioCrossroads held its annual Indiana Life Science Summit, sponsored by Cook Medical and Eli Lilly. The session was on regulations and tax effects on the medical device industry and included Indiana businesses from the areas of science, medicine, education and research. Speakers and panelists hailed from Indiana University, Dow ArgoScience, Biomet Biologies, Wellpoint, the Statehouse and the governor’s office.

Ironically, virtually every CEO, president, vice president, founder and panelist represented an organization that is firmly and unequivocally committed to diversity. So much so, that all have, at the very least, a public policy respecting sexual orientation in the workplace. Most offer domestic partner benefits, and several are actively involved in education and speaking out against HJR-6.

HJR-6 is a bill both House Speaker Brian Bosma and Gov. Mike Pence have publicly endorsed in the hopes it will pass in 2014 and become a ballot issue. It reads in part, “A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

This means that the growth of Indiana’s biomedical industry in research, technologies, medical studies, etc., would be jeopardized. The skilled professionals of Lilly, Wellpoint, Cook, BioMed, IU, Purdue, Roche, Battelle and Dow are most certainly considering the detriments of expanding or locating their company in a state that would strip their employees of the health and other benefits they have offered. Potential employees would choose to live and work in the growing list of states that recognize marriage equality.

For instance, Battelle has, for years, partnered with the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals in awarding scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics programs who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or an active ally of the LGBT community. Their philanthropic efforts are in direct contrast to the Bosma-Pence efforts to actively push for writing discrimination into the state constitution.

Lilly, Wellpoint, Cummins, Emmis and Indiana University have publicly addressed the legislature and continue to work for equality. Biomet and Dow have policy statements that welcome diversity but, more importantly, they work to achieve diversity in their efforts.

I wonder whether, at the summit, as Bosma and the governor’s adviser applauded and complimented the participants and pledged to assist them regarding the regulations that they even realized how their own narrow focus will stunt this industry’s growth in Indiana, and more importantly, cause the companies and their employees to leave the state.


New Buffalo, Mich.